Tag Archives: depression

Not Always Merry and Bright (Guest Post)

Not Always Merry and Bright

by Steph Beth Nickel

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Loss. Illness. Loneliness. Isolation. Fear.

Regardless of the year, Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. But 2020? Enough said.

You may be having a challenging day. Simply getting through it may be all you can do.

Here a few ideas that may make your day a little easier:

Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat even for a short time.

Work on a craft project. You don’t have to be good at it.

Write in your journal. It can be a great way to work through how you’re feeling. Don’t censor yourself. No one else ever has to read your words.

Watch your favourite movie. One that makes you laugh rather than cry may be a good option.

Listen to uplifting music. Some people like to listen to music that reflects their mood. I’m a fan of listening to music that reflects the emotions I want to feel.

Read a book. How about one that has been sitting on your To Be Read list for far too long?

Read the Christmas story in Luke 2.

Take a nap.

And if you’re up for it …

Make a list of things to be thankful for.

Connect with someone else who may need to hear a friendly voice today.

Know Someone Who’s Struggling?

We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25 about doing for “the least of these.”)

Here are some ways to reach out to someone during what, for some, is the Most Difficult Time of the Year:

Connect via Zoom—or another virtual means. Remember to include the children if you have little ones. For some, a child’s smiling face can go a long way to making them feel better. Plus, it helps your children learn that not everyone has a merry Christmas.

Create a Spotify playlist of your favourite uplifting music and share it with someone who needs the encouragement.

Pick up the telephone and call.

While you’re chatting ask if there’s anything you can do for the other person.

Pray for the individual you called. If they’re uncomfortable having you do so on the phone (or on Zoom), let them know you’ll pray when you hang up—and then do it.

Drop off Christmas dinner (or a plate of cookies) on someone’s porch. (Attach an encouraging note.)

If it’s impractical to drop off food, a card with a handwritten note could go a long way to cheering a lonely soul today.

Commit (even to yourself) to stay in touch. Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month.

While today won’t be merry and bright for many people, I pray the Lord will bring you the “peace that passes understanding.”

I also pray that He will increase our compassion for those He brings into our life and that He gives us opportunities to show them His love, the love that sent His Son to earth so long ago.

Have a Blessed Christmas, one and all!


  • Christmas can be a difficult and depressing season for many people. And 2020? Enough said. (click to tweet)
  • Simply getting through Christmas may be all you can do. (click to tweet)
  • Even though it’s Christmas, reach out to a family member or friend if you need to chat. (click to tweet)
  • We must never forget those having a rough time of it. (click to tweet)
  • Connect with someone who is struggling. (click to tweet)
  • Throughout the new year call, visit, or fire off a note at least once a month to someone who is having a tough time. (click to tweet)
Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

Choosing Gratitude (Guest Post)

Choosing Gratitude

By Steph Beth Nickel

Twenty twenty.

Enough said. Right?

COVID. Hurricanes. Wildfires. And so much more.

Pivot has become a way of life and “overwhelm” a state of being.

Remember back in the olden days—say this time last year? Maybe you were looking forward to 2020. Maybe you’d purchased a shiny new planner and had begun filling it in with goals and dreams for the following 12 months.

And then—March!

True confessions. For the first little while, I was relieved not to have so many obligations on my To Do list. (Bear in mind that I didn’t know anyone who had COVID. In fact, the number in my community has remained relatively small.)

When I thought about it, the word surreal came to mind.

As an extrovert desperately in need of continued “human contact,” I began to listen to more audiobooks and podcasts. Familiar voices and all.

While the optimists declared we would have so much more time for those projects we’d been putting off, it soon became clear that lethargy, lack of motivation, and full-fledged depression were taking their toll on many people. Even though I’m typically positive and upbeat, I found a heaviness settling in.

While I was able to keep up with my church work, I did very little writing and editing. I simply didn’t have the wherewithal or mental ambition.

When laziness, procrastination, and pandemics hit, we have to make a choice. (We may also need counseling, and those who seek it are to be commended. And in some cases, physician-prescribed medication is the right route to take.)

Still, gratitude is an important practice for all of us.

Since Ann Voskamp released One Thousand Gifts in 2011, many people have begun to keep a gratitude journal.

It’s actually amazing how quickly we can think of 1000 things to be thankful for—when we set our mind to it.

Where should you look for things to add to your gratitude journal?

  • Make a list of family and friends and things you appreciate about each of them.
  • Consider the people who indirectly and unknowingly make your life easier and more secure each day.
  • Make a list of material blessings you are especially thankful for—and then move on to those that simply make your life more enjoyable.
  • Instead of focusing on those things you are unable to do, make a list of things you can do.
  • If you’re able, go for a walk and be mindful of all the things around you that you have to be thankful for—including the ability to see, hear, feel, move, and think.
  • Make a list of unexpected blessings. While this may take longer, it will warm your heart and, perhaps, easy the heaviness.
  • Whether you’re attending church services in person or watching them online, there are many people working together—and a lot of tech—needed to make it possible.

These are only a handful of ideas, but they can get you started.

When we choose gratitude, it won’t make COVID go away. It won’t put an end to natural disasters. And it won’t magically cure anxiety and depression. However, it is an important discipline and will remind us just how much we have to be thankful for.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? What are you especially thankful for these days? Where do you look for ideas?


Twenty twenty. Enough said. Right? (click to tweet)

Gratitude is an important practice. (click to tweet)

Gratitude is an important discipline and will remind us just how much we have to be thankful for. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

Review: Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth

Fiercehearted, by Holley Gerth (Revell, 2017)

I have so many lines in this book highlighted! Some because they’re comforting, encouraging, or challenging, and others because the word pictures are beautiful.

A few favourite lines:

In the introduction, Holley Gerth writes that she wants the book to help women

…feel less alone and more comfortable in our God-sewn skin and a little surer that we are a force to be reckoned with in this world. [Kindle location 189]

It’s in these moments that we carry wonder and fear like twins. [Kindle location 2080]

We’re all just clay on the wheel, which is another way of saying we are dust being sculpted into glory. [Kindle location 2214]

I found author Holley Gerth through Ellen Graf-Martin’s Change Makers Podcast, and have been appreciating her email newsletters and posts ever since. When I saw the digital version of her book, Fiercehearted, discounted recently, I snapped it up.

With short, conversational chapters transparently reflecting the author’s life experiences, Fiercehearted touches on topics common to many women: conflict avoidance, identity, self-worth, insecurity, success, perfectionism, expectations, failure, work, depression, friendship, and more.

Highly recommended for Christian women, and especially for those who appreciate the writing of Emily P. Freeman, Carolyn Watts (Hearing the Heartbeat), and Ann Voskamp.

For more about Holley Gerth and her ministry, visit holleygerth.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Out of the Blue, by Jan Wong

Out of the Blue, by Jan WongOut of the Blue, by Jan Wong (Jan Wong, 2012)

This book’s subtitle says it all: “A memoir of workplace depression, recovery, redemption, and, yes, happiness.”

Jan Wong was an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, on staff at the Toronto Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest newspapers. She was tough, focused, and unstoppable. Until national backlash to one of her articles triggered death threats and caused the paper to withdraw its support (despite having approved the story in the first place).

I love the title of this book, with its double meaning. The crisis hit “out of the blue” but also the book is Ms. Wong’s story of coming through and out of the “blue” of depression. In the preface she says, “I want to tell you that there is day after night, and hope on the other side.” [p. 10]

Oddly enough, I heard about the book in a conversation about independently-published works. Since I’m now an indie author myself, I listened closer, only to recognize the author from her syndicated columns in my local newspaper. I like her columns, and her story caught my interest.

Out of the Blue is a transparent look back at one person’s major depressive episode. Jan Wong is a gifted writer, and the text flows like a novel except where she adds portions of relevant research. Those never feel like info dumps, but they do remind us we’re reading non-fiction. The author has reconstructed this period in her life from detailed notes and conversations with family and friends, and she offers the disclaimer that her perception of events may not have always been accurate. (For example, was the doctor’s receptionist shrill and impatient or merely efficient? Hypersensitivity affects the interpretation.)

Although every person’s experience with depression is different, I learned a lot from the information she shared. Perhaps my chief take-away was that talk therapy is at least as important as medication, and that the sooner a person can admit they need help, the sooner they can begin to heal. I was startled to learn that one reason we don’t hear more about workplace-induced stress and depression is that employer/employee settlements routinely involve a gag clause forbidding the employee to speak of what happened. Imagine what that does for your healing! Fortunately for us, Ms. Wong held her ground against that clause in her own settlement.

As a Christian, I didn’t necessarily embrace the evolutionary theories in the book, but overall it gave me a much better awareness of the effects of depression. It was also an interesting read, and I was glad to see a positive ending. Because I normally review faith-based writing, I do want to include a language warning. Chapter 3 begins with a burst of profanity. If that’s an issue for you, just skip the first few paragraphs. These words are snippets of quotes from the overwhelming amount of hate mail Ms. Wong received in response to her news article. Their inclusion is to give us a sense of her circumstances.

Canadian author Jan Wong teaches journalism in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and is a columnist for Toronto Life. For more about the author and her work, visit her website: janwong.ca. If you visit, take note of the image showing that Out of the Blue made the bestseller list (despite being independently published) of the very newspaper that failed to support her as an employee in distress.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Robin Williams and Suicide: 3 links and a song

On Saturday I finished reading Jan Wong‘s bestselling memoir, Out of the Blue, subtitled “A memoir of workplace depression, recover, redemption, and, yes, happiness.” The author didn’t attempt to take her own life, but in exploring depression and its effects the book does talk about suicide.

Monday evening we heard the news of Robin Williams’ death. I’m sad. Not from a sense of personal loss, but sad for a life tragically cut short. That’s a cliche, but you know what? A cliche is something that’s been over-used. Suicide happens too often. There’s too much pain.

I don’t know the reason Mr. Williams died, and it’s not my place to analyze. My heart breaks for the individuals holding this much pain and often wearing smiles to hide it–be they adult, teens or children.

On Tuesday, this was my prayer:

"Robin Williams. Christ, have mercy. Rest his soul. Hold his family. Thank You for his gifts. Let him 'fly, be free'."

Not surprisingly, everyone seems to have something to say about the news. Here are some posts that touched my heart–and a mainstream song that I hear echoing Jesus’ longing to reach the wounded.

At Steph’s Eclectic Interests, Steph Beth Nickel reminds us that while we can’t do anything about global or celebrity suffering, we can do something. See “What Can I Do?

At The Daily Dad, Thomas Froese shares what he’d like to say to Robin Williams: “Grieving Robin Williams. His Bus Goes Home.”

At A Holy Experience, Ann Voskamp reveals “What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health.”

And for our song: Nickelback‘s Lullaby (Yes, this song has made me cry in public, and no, I don’t agree that suicide is “the easy way out.” Read Ann Voskamp’s post, if you didn’t already. Suicide happens when strong people, who have already fought longer and harder than outsiders know, succumb to the lie that this is their best option. We know who the Liar is, and he will get what’s coming to him.)

Review: Double Blind, by Brandilyn Collins

Double Blind cover artDouble Blind, by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group, 2012)

Lisa Newberry is a wreck. In recent years she’s had three miscarriages, lost her husband in a car accident, and barely survived a mugging. Depression is crushing her and she’s desperate and alone.

Her last hope is a clinical trial for a revolutionary new treatment for depression: a tiny electronic chip implanted in her brain. The chip works. But it also gives her visions—memories—of a murder.

Who is the dead woman? Has her body been found? And who killed her? Does he know Lisa has his memories through the tainted chip? Is he coming for her next?

As a suspense novel, Double Blind rates highly—no surprise for Brandilyn Collins fans. It’s a page-turning, bedtime-delaying read. The plot is fast, believable and nicely convoluted. But it’s more than just an exciting story. This is one of those potentially life-changing novels for a lot of readers.

Lisa’s recent life events have only added to self-worth pain from her childhood (raised by a single mother who found fault instead of praise). Negative thought patterns and emotions have deepened the original hurts. She doesn’t feel God anymore and believes He’s left her.

Her mother barges back into her life and learns about the visions. While the two women try to solve the mystery, they’re also repairing their relationship.

Lisa learns (and teaches us by example) to stand up for herself and to reject self-defeating behaviours. She learns to trust that God is always with her, even when her feelings disagree. Her mother learns a few parenting skills. All these are minor threads, rising naturally from the characters’ personalities and experiences. Double Blind is not a preachy novel, nor one filled with plastic-perfect examples that shame readers in our imperfect states.

It may seem odd that Lisa wasn’t under a doctor’s care for depression in the first place. I think it’s because the traumas were so recent and she’d withdrawn herself. Even her closest friend didn’t realize how bad things were.

Double Blind is the newest novel from Seatbelt Suspense® novelist Brandilyn Collins. You can learn more about the author at her website or find her Facebook page. You can also read an excerpt from Double Blind.

[Review copy provided by The DeMoss Group for a fair review.]


Review: I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay, by Dolores Ayotte

I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay, by Dolores Ayotte (Tate Publishing, 2008)

I love the cover design of this book – all these uniquely-marked balloons, all in different places but each adding to the scene.

Dolores Ayotte is a former teacher who loves finding ways to share what she’s learned. Her first book, I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay, is one of those ways, and in it Dolores reveals the lessons that helped her move out of a serious depression.

I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay offers “thirteen steps to a happier self,” and they’re all simple, down-to-earth things that we somehow overlook when we’re in distress. Appropriately enough, the first step is learning to love: oneself, others and God.

The author contends that without a healthy sense of self-worth we can’t find emotional healing. Indeed, why would we think we deserve it? If, she says, we can love ourselves as we are, we can then begin to change those things in us that we don’t like.

Dolores speaks of relying on a quiet “inner voice” and it’s clear that this is no mystic “spirit guide” – it’s the Holy Spirit whispering into His child’s life. Healing is, after all, His specialty.

Other key themes in the book are simplicity, relationships, forgiveness, laughter, silence, money management (“live below your yearnings”), wisdom and communication.

I wasn’t comfortable with the book’s reference to God as “him/her” although I’m aware that the Bible does attribute both paternal and maternal characteristics to our Creator. I did find the ingredients in this “Baker’s Dozen” recipe for a better life to be pleasant, helpful and encouraging.

I’m Not Perfect and It’s Okay is an easy book to read, gentle on the spirit, that feels like a personal letter just for you. It includes many inspirational quotes that have encouraged the author over the years. The book comes with a code allowing free download of the text in audio format from the publisher.

To learn more about Canadian author Dolores Ayotte, you can visit her website.  is available through her site and also at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

Review copy provided by the author.

Hope for Wholeness

Sharon Fawcett is a Canadian author and speaker whose ministry offers hope: in the daily stresses common to us all, and in the anguish of depression and eating disorders.

Stop by Sharon’s website, Words of Hope for a World in Need, to check out her articles and resources. Here’s a video trailer on her new book, Hope for Wholeness: the Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression: